By Vincent Pica
Commodore, First District, Southern Region (D1SR)
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
With Earth Day last month, we are reminded of this expression from Biblical days – when there were fewer people and even fewer boats. If each generation wants to hand over waterways to their children and grandkids in the condition that we were entrusted them with, there are a few simple rules, rubrics and guidelines to follow. Every storm ups the challenge as storm drains spew debris and God-knows-what-else, reminding us that even bubble gum wrappers thrown in rain culverts can end up in our creeks, coves and bays.
How many fish are in the sea, Mr. Answer-Man?
As kids, we thought that question had no answer. Now we know that the biomass is declining and, with some species, faster than big fish can make little fishes. So, just take what you can eat that day. Use circle hooks to make it easier/safer (for the fish) for those you throw back. Call fisheries managers and offer to join their tag-and-release program. Be part of the solution…
What to do with the “doo-doo”
Many mariners justify off-loading human waste into our waters based on the old saw, “Do you know what the FISH are doing in these waters?” Admittedly, marinas are now charging for pump-outs, but come on, bunky, you can call 1-800-ASK-FISH for the locations of the pump-out stations in your area and the prices. Put a “user-friendly” head on your boat, and you’ll probably get your better half to come out more often. Be part of the solution…
“Good to the Last Drop? Why???
Have you ever squeezed off a few more ounces at the fuel dock – just to see it spill over the side? Forgetting Coast Guard regulations and fines, consider that you’re burning some number of gallons an hour – and trying to top up a few ounces. What does that represent…20 seconds of steaming? Fill your jerry cans on the hard, not on your boat… if someone throws even a small wake at you while fueling the can in your boat, it’s better than even-money that gas will end up in your boat and/or in the water (where your bilge pump will send it before you can spell “big trouble!”) Keep some absorbent pads aboard. Be part of the solution…
Garbage In, Garbage Out…
If you brought it out, bring it in. Don’t throw anything over the side, even if it’s “bio-degradable.” Treat your boat as a temple on God’s great sea and leave no mark behind. Be part of the solution…
Painting with poison
We paint the bottoms of our boats with poison. We’re trying to kill barnacles, algae, slime and other stowaways who can clog our intake valves, foul our running gear and, as a consequence, actually create another bio-hazard as we have to apply more power (meaning burning more fuel and creating more exhaust) to move the boat at a given speed. So, our intentions are not necessarily ignoble – but if we start to address some of the collateral damage, we can make them noble.
A 30-foot boat, painted with copper-oxide antifouling paint, leaches two pounds of copper into waterways annually. Before you dry-dock your boat, scientists note that Nature naturally leaches 250,000 tons of copper into the sea each year compared to the ~15,000 tons that all seagoing vessels add. But the ocean is one thing – a marina with 100 vessels is another.
States and municipalities are starting to notice and taking action in two ways – restricting boat owners from using certain bottom paint mixtures and keeping marina owners from draining wastewater into the sea. Connecticut banned marinas from doing so a few years back, requiring them to collect the water and bring it to a treatment plant. Sounds expensive, which can end up in dockage fees so high that boaters start to drop out. Eventually, the Feds will bring a suit under the Clean Water Act and then the game is afoot.
The largest antifouling paint company, InterLux, maintains a lot of material online at yachtpaint.com, and you can always discuss it with your dockmaster, who is certainly interested in the health of our waterways.
If you come upon flotsam in the water, grab your boathook, bring it aboard, and dispose of it as if you’d dropped it over the side. Clean up, even if your neighbor won’t. Why? Well, as Cicero said 20 centuries ago, “Virtue has its own reward.” Be part of the solution… ■
If you are interested in being part of the USCG Forces, email me at Vincent.Pica@cgauxnet.us or go direct to the D1SR Human Resources department, who are in charge of new members matters, at d1south.org/StaffPages/DSO-HR.php and we will help you “get in this thing.”
Captain Kevin Reed is the Captain of the Port and Sector Commander for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. CAPT Reed is responsible for all active-duty, reservist and auxiliary Coast Guard personnel within the Sector. As a Commodore of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary First District, Southern Region, Vin Pica works closely with CAPT Reed and his staff to promote boating safety in the waters between Connecticut, Long Island and 200 nautical miles offshore. Sector Long Island Sound Command Center can be reached 24 hours a day at 203-468-4401.